Monday, 12 January 2015
Campaigners fight for full disclosure of Fracking Economic Report
Campaigners are calling on the government to release the its Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts report published in July in full, before MPs are asked to vote on the contentious Infrastructure Bill.
Anti-fracking groups, including many in the North West, argue the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has heavily censored the only public version of the Government’s report ‘Shale Gas Rural Economy Impacts’.
The report, called Shale Gas: Rural Economy Impacts, was written in March and a draft was released under environmental information laws with large portions of the text removed. Last August, The Guardian noted that in particular, the section looking at the effect of drilling on house prices has three missing chunks.
Although the Government has repeatedly said 'the public should be given all the facts’, this report was redacted 63 times, including the section on how fracking could affect house prices. DEFRA claim this was best for ‘public interest’.
Reclaim the Power campaigners maintain that a report pertaining to UK health policy has also been redacted, along with varying estimates that suggest the shale gas industry lacks commercial viability.
A petition has been launched demanding full disclosure and a stop to Fracking Censorship.
Within the next couple of weeks MPs will vote on the Infrastructure Bill, which proposes controversial changes to Britain's Trespass Laws that will erode land rights and pave the way for fracking. Two Tory MPs have already urged David Cameron to release the report in full. Other MPs have also asked to see the complete report, yet still it remains redacted.
"It’s crucial that what’s hidden in this report is released before the Infrastructure Bill is finally voted on in Parliament," campaigners argue," so that MPs can properly understand impacts that fracking will have on our house prices and our communities.
"We all deserve to see the censored material in this important document that our government is keeping from us."
In a response to requests for a more detailed release of the draft report (PDF), the Department commented:
?We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosure of information concerning policy development in relation to shale gas. On the other hand, there is a strong public interest in withholding the information because it is important that officials can consider implications of potential impacts and scenarios around the development of the shale gas industry and to develop options without the risk that disclosure of early thinking, could close down discussion."
• View the "Stop Fracking Censorship" petition